The Environment Hates Plastic Straws

The Environment Hates Plastic Straws

When it comes to plastic straws, opinions are diverse. They can be needed for those that have a disability in order to drink, but they are also incredibly bad for the environment, so what is someone to do? The two priorities of disability rights and environmental protection are usually compatible, except when it comes to plastic straws. The question is then asked, what is more important?

The European Union recently banned plastic straws in addition to cotton swabs. Vancouver has already announced plans to ban the straws and Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by 2020. Taiwan also is banning all single-use plastic items, straws included, by 2030.

In the United States, there are plenty of efforts to also ban plastic straws. New York City, cities in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Washington all have legislation that is pending in order to help ban plastic straws, in order to protect the environment.

Straws can be a luxury for some people, but for many others who can’t pick up cups due to a disability, they become life saving. Many people think the option is to buy reusable straws, and people who rely on straws do use them at home.

However, what can be done at public establishments that only have plastic straws available? Many are already accustomed to having plastic straws ready when out in public, but if more places are banning them, restaurants and establishments will no longer be able to cater to people with disabilities. It is unrealistic for those who rely on straws to bring their own from home when they are out.

There could be alternatives to plastic straws, but there hasn’t been a solution yet that makes sense. Otherwise, it would already be implemented in order to help protect the environment. Metal and wood straws can be dangerous and ineffective for those with disabilities.

Metal and bamboo straws prove too strong, so they can be difficult to use for people with Parkinson’s disease. Paper straws become too soggy and can create a choking hazard as they start to disintegrate. Reusable straws and other compostable straws are more expensive.

This not only poses a problem for the establishment that should be providing the straw, but also for those with the disability. Poverty is more common with those suffering from disabilities.

If plastic straws are going to be banned, they need to be available for those that actually need them. A solution that can help the environment is to have plastic straws on an on-demand system, where people who need them will request them and those who don’t need them can go about their lives.

In order for this to work, establishments do need to make the straws available, without questions. Those who need straws shouldn’t be shamed for them. While this could be a temporary solution, there should still be an effort on banning plastic straws with the disability community in mind.

Banning plastic straws is only a small part of the puzzle when it comes to helping the environment. Recent bans on plastic bags have helped the issue as well. Those with disabilities want to help the environment, there just needs to be a more creative solution besides an outright ban on plastic straws.

Carlos Lopez is the director for Disabled Friends. He also handles the department of disability resources for MedicareFAQ, a learning resource center for all seniors and Medicare beneficiaries.